Friday, November 18, 2011

Obama's Dogmatic Spending Spree

In her excellent history of the the Great Depression, author Amity Shlaes chronicles Roosevelt's inaugural speech in January 1937 where he claims, "Our progress out of the Depression is obvious" (298). This was FDR's proclamation to the people on the celebration of his re-election (for the second time) as president. Never mind that the unemployment rate now at 15% was on the rise again from the November 1936 low. In fact, the Great Depression would drag on until the mobilization of the war effort in response to the December 7, 1941 Japanese of Pearl Harbor would jumpstart the U.S. economy. The point was then--as it is now--not to let the facts get in the way of ideology. Not ever.

The parallels between the Roosevelt Administration and the Obama Administration are uncanny. Who can forget the Obama Administration's "Recovery Summer" in 2010? From Politico on June 17, 2010: "Vice President Joe Biden today will kick off the Obama administration’s “Recovery Summer,” a six-week-long push designed to highlight the jobs accompanying a surge in stimulus-funded projects to improve highways, parks, drinking water and other public works.

David Axelrod, a senior adviser to the president, said: “This summer will be the most active Recovery Act season yet, with thousands of highly-visible road, bridge, water and other infrastructure projects breaking ground across the country, giving the American people a first-hand look at the Recovery Act in their own backyards and making it crystal clear what the cost would have been of doing nothing” (Allen).

Despite the claims of recovery, there was not then and is not now a credible supporting fact for claiming so.

Mr. Obama entered office in January of 2009 with an unemployment rate of 7.6%. In February of 2009, with a sense of urgency borrowed from the FDR Great Depression handbook, Obama proposed and Congress passed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. $787 Billion in spending. $787 billion in tax-payer dollars. 787 Billion of them had to be spent. Immediately.

Christina Romer, the Administration's first Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers argued that the spending was necessary because the “stimulus program would prevent unemployment from exceeding 8%. In fact, unemployment shot up to 10.1% in October 2009. The unemployment rate in September 2011 was reported at 9.1%, while Romer and Bernstein had predicted that if their “stimulus” plan passed (which, of course, it did), it would be 6.6%" (Forbes, Woodhill).

Using the presidential pulpit to dogmatically (definition: asserting opinion as though it were a fact) claim a particular political result is bad leadership, at best or akin to propaganda, at worst. We expect our presidents to rise above politics in the midst of a national crisis.

Rahm Emanuel, Obama's former Chief of Staff, boldly stated in the early days: "You never let a serious crisis go to waste. And what I mean by that it's an opportunity to do things you think you could not do before."

In other words, everything is political. Even at the expense of the millions of Americans still out of work despite the unprecedented spending of $787 billion of your money and mine.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Complete Self-Confidence--A Weakness

The arrogance of man is such that he is forever seeking to attach his imprimatur to success in order to co-opt that success for his own gain. In capitalism, the effect is competition. In government, the result is tyranny.

From a young age, we encourage our children to "believe in themselves." We cite examples of our heroes who through sheer determination succeeded in the face of unrelenting failure. We recount the perseverance of Thomas Edison and Abraham Lincoln; we celebrate Washington's improbable victory against the British or the rags to riches stories of men and women who have risen from obscurity to wealth through hard work. This is the story of America at her finest placed center stage, integral to our cultural lore, so deeply revered it is embedded in our DNA. We believe in ourselves, we believe in others. That is the essence of being American.

But believing in one's self implies that there is something to believe in. Something fine and good and honorable at the core and if there is good there must also be humility--a self-check against delusion. For, blind belief is dangerous when unchecked as G.K. Chesterton reminds us in his 1908 publication of Orthodoxy. He writes: Shall I tell you where the men are who believe most in themselves? For I can tell you. I know of men who believe in themselves more colossally than Napoleon or Caesar. I know where flames the fixed star of certainty and success. I can guide you to the thrones of the Supermen. The men who really believe in themselves are all in lunatic asylums...Complete self-confidence is not merely a sin; complete self-confidence is a weakness.

Our political leaders would do well to consider Chesterton's words. Our president who believes in the veracity of his unproven and failed economic policies and continues to advocate them in the face of ongoing economic deterioration would do well to consider the facts. To seek guidance from history. To understand that at the core of blind confidence is arrogance. Out president would do well to understand as Chesterton did that "complete self-confidence is a weakness." And, weakness is something the leader of the world's dominant economic power cannot afford to flaunt.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

In Search of a Modern Day Hercules

In the mid-1800's the great Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote a series of essays that were published into two volumes. From his essay on Character he first deals with its elusive nature: "...a reserved force which acts directly by presence, and without means. It is conceived of as a certain undemonstrable force, a Familiar or Genius, by whose counsels he cannot impart; which is company for him, so that such men are often solitary..." (Emerson,98). In other words, these men know what they are about.

And we know what they are about--just by looking at them. "..but Hercules did not wait for a contest; he conquered whether he stood, or walked, or sat, or whatever thing he did." (99) So where are these men today? Emasculated or at the very least silenced perhaps by politically correct thinking or more accurately, by the tyranny of political correct thought.

And finally: "The men who carry their points do not need to inquire of their constituents what they should say, but are themselves the country which they represent" (100)

To that I say: Maxine Waters, Anthony Weiner, Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid...and sadly President Barack Obama.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Reckless Endangerment--Obama in Action

In his book 10 Books Every Conservative Must Read, Dr. Benjamin Wiker addresses the question of what, exactly, the term conservatism means and begins by pointing out the most important consideration is "what is one trying to conserve?"

To understand the answer to that question, Wiker begins with Aritotle's The Politics. Aristotle believed--as I trust most Americans do--that "political life and morality are natural" versus the notion that "political life and morality are man-made." Aristotle captured, centuries ago, the salient argument that remains front and center in American politics today--from whom do politicians receive their authority?

As Wiker states: "Conservatives tend toward political caution, because they believe man is not infinitely malleable; and they believe that morality is objective and puts limits on what human beings can and should do. (emphasis mine) Liberals tend to believe the reverse: that morality is relative and that man is malleable and can rightfully be subject to political manipulation to some advance some heady notion of the common good to expedite some grand "progressive" project" (14)

But here is where the difference becomes most stark. Conservatives prefer experience. Liberals are just fine espousing some Utopian theory and then muddling along to see if it works never minding about what history or the Constitution say. Think: stimulus, then more stimulus and the promise of future stimulus in the face of deteriorating economic and employment results. Think Nancy Pelosi telling us that "we have to pass the bill to learn what's in it" after the notorious health care railroad vote.

History is written for a reason. To learn from it. As George Santanya famously penned: Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it."

"Playing doctor" with the world's growth engine is reckless endangerment of an unprecedented kind.

Enjoy your vacation Mr. President.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Fiscal La La Land

The name calling and obfuscation surrounding the debt ceiling debate is remarkable even by Washington standards. The time for politics is past. The entitlement mentality in Washington which has spread throughout the country is not sustainable. It is time for us to know the numbers, the breadth and depth of the problem. Consider the following from a recent Wall Street Journal editorial and take a moment to the let the scope of the spending sink in. (Note also that the emphasis is mine.)
"According to the most recent government data, today some 50.5 million Americans are on Medicaid, 46.5 million are on Medicare, 52 million on Social Security, five million on SSI, 7.5 million on unemployment insurance, and 44.6 million on food stamps and other nutrition programs. Some 24 million get the earned-income tax credit, a cash income supplement."

And the next time one of your liberal friends suggests that we cut defense spending to solve the spending problem, consider this:

"By 2010 such payments to individuals were 66% of the federal budget, up from 28% in 1965. We now spend $2.1 trillion a year on these redistribution programs, and the 75 million baby boomers are only starting to retire." (WSJ)

Finally, to understand the reckless pace of spending, to put it in historical perspective read on.
"Spending as a share of GDP in the last three years is higher than at any time since 1946. In three years the debt has increased by more than $4 trillion thanks to stimulus, cash for clunkers, mortgage modification programs, 99 weeks of jobless benefits, record expansions in Medicaid, and more. The forecast is for $8 trillion to $10 trillion more in red ink through 2021."

All of this before ObamaCare costs hit the books.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Doing Things on His Own

If only President Obama received the same kind of intense media scrutiny George Bush was subject to and all presidents should be held to, his comments today would at least be a part of the national dialogue.

According to Catherine E. Shoichet of CNN, Obama told the National Council of La Raza: "The idea of doing things on my own is very tempting, I promise you, not just on immigration reform. But that's not how our system works. That's not how our democracy functions."

Democratic National Committee Chair, Debbie Wasserman Schultz stated today: "I commend President Obama for his address at NCLR today." Presumably Ms. Schultz read the president's speech. Presumably she understands the conflict between the Constitution and the president confessing that "the idea of doing things on my own is very tempting."

Presumably as chairwoman of the DNC, Ms. Schultz understands that the president takes an oath to uphold the Constitution and that doing things on his own, while tempting, would be in breach of that oath.


Monday, July 18, 2011

Reckless Endangerment

If the budget/debt ceiling debate doesn't focus voter's on 2012 nothing will. After cramming ObamaCare through Congress using a parliamentary procedure (Reconciliation) meant for routine spending bills not massive entitlement bills; after cajoling and threatening and "rewarding" (we call it something else in the private sector) loyal party members with scads of taxpayer money for pet projects if they voted to support ObamaCare; after listening to Nancy Pelosi so aptly declare: "We have to pass the bill to know what's in it..." if you were still sitting on the sidelines, now is the time to engage in the debate.

Let's set aside the $1.whatever Trillion spending boondoggle that is ObamaCare. Let's focus instead on the question of spending and the sustainability of spending of our federal government.

Fact: in 2011, the US is projected to spend $772.4B on pensions, $874.4B on health care (before the effects of ObamaCare spending kick in in 2014), $417.1B on welfare, $254.5B on interest on the accumulating debt (projected to be in excess of $15 trillion by the end of FY 2011) and $830.9B on defense. Compare the budget in 2011 to the budget in 1961.

Just fifty years ago federal spending on pensions was $12.8B ($760 billion less than we pay each year to retirees in 2011). Health care costs were $1.6B ($872.8 billion less than 2011, and this is before the enormous costs of ObamaCare commence. It should also be noted here that despite exponential growth in health care payments since 1961, our health care system and availability of health care to the poor was so egregiously wanting, that we had to pass Obama's $1 trillion solution to fix it. What we couldn't do with $872 billion surely we can accomplish with $1 trillion more! ) Welfare costs were $3.2B. Our interest payment on debt outstanding was $7.5B and our defense spending totaled $57.0B.

Consider: Since 1961 the federal budget has expanded 3,735%. According to the government's own cost of living calculator. $10.00 in 1961 is worth the equivalent of $75.49 in 2011. In other words, while the average citizen in the United States has experienced a 654% increase in living expenses since 1961, the government has expanded its budget by 3,735%.

And is borrowing over 40 cents for each dollar spent.

This is the debate of 2012. Obama wants tax increases--more of your money--rather than to temper spending. And this is before the effects of the inflationary monetary policies of QE2 etc. seep into the economy and turbo charge consumer prices. The question for each of us: are his policies sustainable, effective, or for that matter, constitutional.

What is the primary purpose of government after all?

To protect her citizens from harm. And that includes reckless economic harm.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Enamored of His Own Reflection

Or how Americans put a serial narcissist in the White House.

Some day when the historians are chronicling the national disaster that is this Administration, I wonder if someone will think to take note of the thousands, nay millions of times this president has used the word "I." It is difficult to recall any public figure so self-referential, so self-absorbed and self-satisfied as this president. And will the historians take particular note of the fact that rarely, if ever, have such a civilized and intelligent populace willingly granted so much power to such an unaccomplished individual. Nor one so economically ignorant.

Point in fact: the president's press conference on Monday where he remarked: "And I do not want, and I will not accept, a deal in which I am asked to do nothing, in fact, I’m able to keep hundreds of thousands of dollars in additional income that I don’t need, while a parent out there who is struggling to figure out how to send their kid to college suddenly finds that they’ve got a couple thousand dollars less in grants or student loans." (emphasis mine)

What the president seems to forget, or perhaps never understood, is that he has the free will to donate that "hundreds of thousands of dollars" in extra income directly to that struggling parent. He doesn't need to wait for the IRS to come and get it and run it through the horrendously and inefficient grinder that is the government bureaucracy. He is free to do with what that money he doesn't need whatever he wants to. That was the whole idea of the American Revolution: the right to produce and earn and keep the fruits of our labor. A rejection of arbitrary taxes imposed by a distant and out of touch and self-absorbed monarchy...We seem to have become a reflection of all that we rejected and fought for over 200 years ago.

We seem to have come full circle.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Busybody Town

A man who knows and concerns himself with his own interests is regarded as a man of practical wisdom, while men whose concern is politics are looked upon as busybodies.
Nicomachean Ethics

Q: Since when is it a bad thing to be rich in America?

A: Ever since the democrats--most notably under FDR--have used the wealthy minority as red meat for their socialist policies.

There is no reason to dance around the issue. Confiscating money from those who earn it to spend it on whatever a few people in power deem appropriate is definitely not the trait of a free and democratic society. Remember that our founders did not include a direct tax (income tax) in the constitutional power of government because doing so would create the ideal opportunity for the many--the poor(er)--to tyrannize the few--the rich(er).

Why does our government require ever-exponentially-increasing-historically-unprecedented levels of cash? Because our politicians--and especially the left-leaning ones--are convinced they know better than you how to spend your money. They know this because most of them have never accomplished anything other than being elected to office. Where, here again, they spent other people's money to do so.

So while the national busybodies are wrangling over how much of our money we get to keep in the coming years; while they ignore the fact that they just implemented one of the most profligate spending sprees in American history and unemployment, instead of declining as promised, has relentlessly increased as economic growth has sputtered. While they ignore these pesky facts they are once more arguing for yet higher taxes slamming the rich in an attempt to somehow claim the moral high ground.

Let us not be deceived. Before Congress and the President do anything the following tax increases are set to kick in according to an editorial in today's Wall Street Journal:
  • Starting in 2013, the bill (ObamaCare, or as the pols named it: the Affordable Care Act) adds an additional 0.9% to the 2.9% Medicare tax for singles who earn more than $200,000 and couples making more than $250,000.
  • For the first time ever, the now 3.8% Medicare tax will also be applied to investment income, including dividends, interest income and capital gains. That doesn't just hit the rich, this implementation of the Medicare tax goes after every American with any assets at all.
  • Also in 2013, a 2.3% excise tax will be imposed on medical device makers. Which means medical devices will become 2.3% more expensive for everyone. Not just the rich. And if you want a real laugh take a look at what constitutes a medical device to these infernal busybodies. They have no shame. They want to tax your toothbrush and feminine care products included in their taxing scheme.
These taxes just scratch the surface of the scheduled taxes increases to fund the "Affordable" Care Act. The WSJ summarizes the affects of ObamaCare taxes and the current wrangling in Washington:

"There are numerous other new taxes in the bill, all adding up to some $438 billion in new revenue over 10 years. But even that is understated because by 2019 the annual revenue increase is nearly $90 billion, or $900 billion in the 10 years after that. Yet Mr. Obama wants to add another $1 trillion in new taxes on top of this."

Voters overwhelmingly repudiated this kind of Gladys Kravitz peer-through-the curtains invasion into our lives in the fall. Let us hope the freshman Congressional class will have the courage to stand their ground against the nosy ruling class in Washington.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Security Risk?

We all know air travel is a pain. From yesterday's Drudge Report.

A Miami photographer was escorted off a US Airways plane and deemed a “security risk” after she snapped a photo of an employee’s nametag at Philadelphia International Airport Friday.

Sandy DeWitt said the employee, whose name was Tonialla G., was being rude to several passengers in the boarding area of the flight to Miami.

So DeWitt snapped a photo of her nametag with her iPhone because she planned to complain about her in a letter to US Airways. But the photo didn’t come out because it was too dark.

However, once DeWitt was settled in her seat, preparing for take-off, Tonialla G. entered the plane and confronted her.

“She told me to delete the photo,” DeWitt said in an interview with Photography is Not a Crime Saturday morning.

DeWitt, who already had her phone turned off in preparation for take-off, turned the phone back on to show her that it didn’t come out, but deleted the photo anyway.

“I complied with her wishes but it’s not something I would normally do,” she said. “It just wasn’t usable.”

But Tonialla G. wouldn’t let the issue go. She then walked into the cockpit to inform the pilot that DeWitt was a “security risk.”

Tonialla's behavior is a result of unchecked power. She cried "security risk" because she confused DeWitt's right to free speech (taking a picture of her name tag presumably to complain about Tonialla's behavior) with an, at best, flimsy claim that that free speech compromised the security of the passengers on the plane. Not only did her actions have a profound impact on DeWitt (she was escorted off the plane and, despite the fact she was a "security risk" placed on another airline, arriving at an airport 45 minutes from her home in the middle of the night with no means of transportation home) but Tonialla's tantrum delayed other passengers and trivialized the very real security concerns that exist in our air travel system each day.

Consider the following:

In May, I flew from Oakland to Baltimore. The security line was the zoo it always is. Except this time I was behind two Muslim women dressed in black gowns and head scarves. As I was removing my shoes, then my jacket, my scarf and my hat, I noticed that the two women sailed through without even removing their head scarves. No body scan, no enhanced pat-down, no questions. I queried the TSA agent--how was this possible?--and he said that any passenger can attempt to go through security without removing their jacket or head scarf, etc., but TSA has the right to detain them and pat them down. Except they didn't. And, as he was finishing his explanation I turned to see my daughter who wore a hooded sweatshirt being patted down instead.

In June my husband boarded a flight in Phoenix. The flight was delayed while all the passengers' ID's were checked against the manifest so the flight crew could identify the extra passenger on board. The man seated directly in front of my husband was not ticketed on the flight and was escorted off the plane. While the agent's found the passenger in the end, how did he get on the plane without a ticket in the first place?

Today, a good friend was in the security line at Oakland Airport. Behind her was a man with a ticket who spoke only enough English to tell the TSA agent, "No ID." In other words, he had a ticket, but no ID. The man was escorted out of line and when my friend inquired of one of the agents whether he would get through without an ID, the clerk replied, "Well, it will take him a long time."

Tonialla G., if you are listening, take note. Now, those are legitimate security risks.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Obama's Red Meat Rhetoric

Stay with me here. I am about to quote Aristotle again. I have to. Because his ethics and understanding should be part of our dialogue today. Especially when it comes to politicians. Especially when it comes to Obama and his policies.

In the Nicomachean Ethics, Chapter 6, paragraph 7 on Theoretical Wisdom, Aristotle writes: "That is why it is said that men...have theoretical but not practical wisdom: when we see that they do not know what is advantageous to them, we admit that they know extraordinary, wonderful, difficult, and superhuman things, but call their knowledge useless because the good they are seeking is not human" (157). Or good.

He goes on to provide an example of the man who knew that "light meat is easily digested, and hence wholesome, but did not know what sort of meat is light, he will not produce health" (158).

This man does not produce health. Knowing that light meat is healthy is only half the equation. The other half--the important half--is having the ability, understanding and, yes, wisdom to be able to identify light meat. Healthy meat.

The same is true of Obama's rhetoric. Saying that we need to produce jobs and then proposing penalties to the very people who produce those jobs is akin to arguing for a healthy diet while downing a bag of Cheetos Cheese-Puffs. Voters of all ages and educational background instinctively understand the notion of cause and effect. If I touch the hot stove again, I will get burned. That is practical wisdom. Something that Obama lacks.

Time to step back from our president's raging inferno of rhetoric and acknowledge that his policies have done nothing to create jobs and everything to create unprecedented deficits. In record time. Six months ago he was all for the Bush era tax cuts and now he demagogues the rich and argues for tax increases. Which is it? White meat or dark? What is the cause of our problems, rich people? Or uncontrolled and fraudulently wasteful spending?

I know healthy meat when I see it and this red meat Obama is throwing at his far left base is reckless and irresponsible. And anything but practical.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Finally, Some Sanity on the (Un) Constitutionality of ObamaCare

Encouraging news from an article on today's Opinion page in The Wall Street Journal by David B. Rivkin and Lee A. Casey: "The Supreme Court's most important ruling this year may have been its unanimous decision in Bond v. United States, which held that individual citizens can challenge federal statutes when they encroach on authority the Constitution reserves to the states."

This remarkable, unanimous decision supports each citizen's right to challenge federal laws that exceed the authority of the Constitution. "The court stated without equivocation that "[b]y denying any one government complete jurisdiction over all the concerns of public life, federalism protects the liberty of the individual from arbitrary power. When the government acts in excess of its lawful powers, that liberty is at stake.""

Rivkin and Casey conclude: "That's why the decision is bad news for those who defend ObamaCare—the most extravagant challenge to that dual system in our history."

The dual sovereignty of the federal and state governments was established to guard citizens against the absolute power, or tyranny, of a single government. The Constitution provides clear boundaries for the federal and state governments. "In enacting the ObamaCare law, Congress seized for itself the very type of power—the ability to regulate individual conduct regardless of any significant connection to interstate commerce or another legitimate federal regulatory interest—that the Constitution reserves solely to the states."

ObamaCare overrides the individual's personal decision of whether or not to purchase health care insurance. Additionally, ObamaCare places the sole authority of that decision with the federal government which stands in stark opposition to the Commerce Clause which delegates the authority to regulate commerce to the States. The Supreme Court's decision in Bond v. United States sets a clear and welcome precedent.

Monday, June 20, 2011

What exactly does it mean to be "Pro"-Choice

Honestly, I am tired of special interest groups co-opting and then distorting words and phrases from every day speech.

Pro-Choice has been inculcated by the pro-abortion crowd to portray a democratic, libertarian bent to the question of abortion. If you aren't "pro-choice" then you must favor oppression and lack of choice. You must be judgmental or, worse, an evangelical. You must not be a very nice person. Choice is good. Even noble. Limiting choice is bad. Evil.

Yet the same but political ideologues who demand a woman has a right to make decisions regarding her own body and the life of her unborn child, view the question of choice simply from the woman's point of view. Never from the child's. More remarkable these same people advocate that individuals must now give up their health care choices. As Obamacare invades the patient/doctor relationship, delegating basic decisions to government run committees--in other words, limiting and in some case doing away entirely with choice--these pro-abortion and pro-government run health care advocates refuse to acknowledge their contradictory logic.

The hypocrisy and lack of intellectual honesty is breathtaking.

Aristotle understood that choice was a function of human morality. Or lack thereof. He understood that choice could result in good and/or bad outcomes. That choice for choice sake wasn't the point. The point was to make good choices. He wrote: "That is why there cannot be choice either without intelligence and thought or without some moral characteristic; for good and bad action in human conduct are not possible without thought and character."

Choice in and of itself is not good. Making the right choice results in good. The abortion question regarding a woman's choice of carrying the baby to term or terminating the baby's life
focuses, in my view, on the wrong choice. The original choice, the one that caused the pregnancy, carried consequences. A baby was one of those consequences. Seems to me that being pro-choice should focus on the question of choosing to or choosing not to engage in activities that could result in the death of another human being.

Friday, June 17, 2011

2333 Years Later

Sometime before his death in 322 BC, Aristotle completed the Nicomachean Ethics. The Ethics was compiled from Aristotle's lectures at the Lyceum exploring the Socratic question of how men should best live.

In Book Five, Aristotle responds to the question: What is just in the political sense? He writes, "That is why we do not allow the rule of a man but the rule of reason, because a man takes too large a share for himself and becomes a tyrant. A (true) ruler, however, is the guardian of what is just, and as such he is also the guardian of equality and fairness. We think of a just ruler as one who does not get more than his share."

For 2333 years Aristotle's work has stood as the definitive work on ethics. Our founding fathers, among others, relied on the Ethics to influence the framework of our government. Yet, our leaders continue to feed at the trough of hard-earned tax payer funds taking more than their share. Yesterday, we discussed Nancy Pelosi and her well-funded, luxurious flights at our expense. But that is only one example. There are countless other demonstrations of this tyrannical abuse by our leaders.

Politicians whose family members are highly paid lobbyists, trade on the position of their elected spouse, father, wife or son. Congress shoves an unworkable, unpopular, unconstitutional health-care bill down the throats of the people while exempting themselves and their friends. Meanwhile Timothy Geitner, Obama's Secretary of the Treasury, the well-publicized tax cheat gets off Scot-free and becomes the national guardian of our treasury. One set of rules for us, another set of rules for them.

It grates on me. Gets under my skin. Just doesn't set right. We are an educated people. We ought to recognize tyranny when we see it and certainly before it is too late. Before, as a shopkeeper in Ireland told me while discussing their prohibitive value added tax (VAT), "they've broken us." Tyranny and tyrannical leaders eventually accomplish that.

Aristotle warned those who would listen. 2333 years ago.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Courtesy of The People

I know we're all busy. But surely we have just a moment to share a little outrage.

The Hill reported yesterday that Nancy Pelosi's net worth grew by 62% in 2010. Compare that to the change in the total net worth of all households and non-profit organizations in the United States which improved by a mere 7.4% during the same period. Or compare it to the Federal Government whose liabilities rose exponentially during the same period. In other words, the Federal Government's net worth declined exponentially while under the fiscal direction of Speaker Pelosi while her own assets increased mightily.

Ms. Pelosi's assets now total $43.4 million (with $8.2 million in liabilities) making her one of the wealthiest members of Congress. So explain to me then why the, former majority leader (now minority leader) spent oodles of taxpayer money on her flights and in-flight service during the first two years of her Speaker-ship. World Net Daily reports that the then Speaker spent "more than $101,000...for "in-flight services" – including food and liquor...on Air Force jets over the last two years. That's almost $1,000 per week."

"Documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act by Judicial Watch, which investigates and prosecutes government corruption, show Pelosi incurred expenses of some $2.1 million for her use of Air Force jets for travel over that time."

John Boehner, the new Speaker, flies commercial. Presumably paying for his own liquor. Oh, and his net worth? The Speaker reports a net worth of $2.1 million (up 16.7% over the previous year) and zero liabilities.

Read more:

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Read this from The Heritage Foundation

Morning Bell: Unemployment Is No Laughing Matter
From The Heritage Foundation's Morning Bell

As President Barack Obama swung through North Carolina yesterday, he did all he could to show that he cares about the U.S. economy, its 9.1 percent unemployment rate, and the 13.9 million Americans who remain out of work. Well, that is, until he let a bit of honesty slip off his tongue.

During a meeting with his Jobs and Competitiveness Council—a group of CEOs the President created to give him advice on the economy—conversation turned to Obama’s $787 billion stimulus that promised to “create or save” 3.5 million new jobs by 2011 by pumping money into “shovel ready” jobs. Confronting the reality that his stimulus failed, the President quipped, “Shovel-ready was not as shovel-ready as we expected.” The council, led by GE’s Jeffrey Immelt, burst into laughter.

But for those millions of jobless Americans who have not seen the promise of Obama’s stimulus come to fruition, unemployment is no laughing matter. Still, though, that reality escapes those on the left who continue to cling to the notion that President Obama’s big government, Keynesian policies have succeeded despite all evidence to the contrary.

Case in point: On Sunday’s “Meet the Press,” host David Gregory confronted DNC chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz with the cold hard facts—unemployment is up 25 percent since President Obama’s inauguration day, the debt is up 35 percent, a gallon of gas is up 104 percent, and 59 percent of Americans disapprove of the President’s handling of the economy. Wasserman Schultz’s reply that, in all likelihood, is still spinning like a top two days later: ”We were able to, under President Obama’s leadership, turn this economy around.”

Obviously enough, the economy has not turned around. In a roundtable published by Barron’s magazine, 10 money managers and financial market experts were unanimous in their belief that slower economic growth is in store for the second half of 2011. Meanwhile, economists surveyed by The Wall Street Journal say that the biggest risk to the U.S. economy’s recovery is a slowdown in hiring. On average, they expect the economy to add just 2.2 million jobs over the next year. And to make matters worse, Bill Gross of the Pimco investment firm told CNBC that the United States is in worse financial shape than Greece when its public debt is added to all the money owed to cover future liabilities in entitlement programs.

Or if you apply simple logic, if the economy had turned the corner, the President wouldn’t need to tour the country to convince America that down is up, night is day, and that he’s doing a great job getting people back to work.

In another bit of unintentional Obama economy comedy, the LA Times‘ Peter Nicholas laments today that “traditional tools to jolt the economy [are] largely exhausted or unavailable” to the President—more spending and tax cuts are off the table, he writes, because Congress is “concerned with reducing the federal debt.” Remember, though, that debt comes from spending, and it’s Obama’s reliance on spending that has helped put us where we are today. Heritage’s James Sherk and Rea Hederman, Jr., write:

The President responded to the recession with the stimulus, which massively expanded the size of government. President Obama now fiercely resists attempts to reduce spending and insists on dealing with the deficit by raising taxes on “the rich”—i.e., successful entrepreneurs and business owners. Increased government spending displaces private-sector business investment.

Other Obama policies that have made America’s economic picture worse include the President’s health care plan (which makes hiring new workers significantly more expensive, while leaving uncertainty over future costs); an increased effort to foist unionization on employers and employees; a refusal to submit trade agreements with South Korea, Colombia, and Panama (that would create new business opportunities, along with tens of thousands of jobs); and an opposition to increasing domestic energy production, which will leave Americans to grapple with high energy costs.

There are, in fact, things the President can do to help the economy get on the right track. As Sherk and Hederman note, it starts with opening the door for entrepreneurs and businesses to expand and create new jobs by lifting the stifling regulations and burdens that have been created in the past two years.

President Obama might want to joke about jobs or downplay his failures as mere “bumps on the road.” He might also like to blame America’s troubles on the previous Administration or “unease about the European fiscal situation.” The truth, though, is a different story, and rather than joking, downplaying, or blaming, it’s time for the President to get to work on fixing the problem.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

High- Minded Hope
(Photo courtesy of Gloria Carlson)

A few weeks ago I attended my son's graduation from the United States Naval Academy, Annapolis. The graduation was everything one would expect: inspirational, patriotic and celebratory. Secretary Gates gave the keynote and focused on the character of leadership that these young men and women would soon be demonstrating. And I thought, we have a chance if these graduates lead us.

As a college lecturer I experience a cross-section of America's youth each semester. I love each and every one of the young scholars I teach. Yet, each semester I am struck by the lack of knowledge they have accumulated in the previous 12 years of their schooling. Last semester in my English Composition class I asked my students to read and evaluate The Declaration of Independence. When I surveyed my class of seventeen how many had read the document previously only two raised their hand. Two of seventeen. The semester prior I asked the same question to my two classes and five responded affirmatively. Previous surveys have produced similar results.

And more remarkable: When they read an excerpt from the 911 Commission Report--a handful expressed their view that the attacks on the World Trade Center were an inside job.

In my Collegiate Seminar of the Great Books we read Aristotle. We discussed his notion of the "high-minded" individual. The high-minded is the man who "thinks he deserves great things and actually deserves them." The counter to the high minded is the fool; the man who "thinks he deserves them but does not" (Nicomachean Ethics, 93). As a group, my students had more trouble accepting the nature of the high-minded man than the fool. They felt he was arrogant and conceited rather than the other way around. I believe this is emblematic of our society. We pity and often exalt the fool at the expense of the high-minded. We're more comfortable with the fool because he challenges us less. Our weaknesses or faults pale in the shadow of the high-minded but shine when compared to the fool. Instead of being outraged by the audacity of the fool claiming the prizes of greatness we seem more intent on putting the high-minded man in his place rather than rewarding him.

Witness the defense of Anthony Weiner by prominent women, fellow members of the Democratic caucus and the media. Charlie Rangel, as reported by the AP, summarized the inside-the-beltway view when he said "that other members of Congress had done things more immoral than Weiner." Rangel's defense magnifies Aristotle's characterization of the Fool. Our political leader's believe they are entitled to the privilege of office, the trappings of greatness, despite their behavior or character.

I, for one, am pinning my high-minded hopes on men and women like the Ensign's and Second Lieutenants of the USNA graduating class of 2011. They, at least, understand the importance of integrity and discipline and...honesty.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Politics politics and more politics

Today's, Heritage Foundation Morning Bell hits the mark when it comes to the Obama Administration's penchant for playing politics with just about every subject under the sun. The President's reckless comments at the border, defiance of two court orders to reinstate oil drilling permits in the gulf and his shameless bin Laden victory tour have shown that nothing is above politics to this Administration.

Though Congress is implementing the bash- the- oil companies strategy, the effort transparently tears a page out of the Democratic/Obama playbook. Heritage focuses on the critical issue in lowering prices at the pump: removing the barriers to production.

"There's much the president and Congress could do if they truly wanted to give Americans a break at the gas pump. For starters, they could provide access to our country's domestic energy reserves, roll back regulatory burdens on companies and lift the de facto moratorium on offshore drilling permits.

Attacking the oil industry might satisfy the left's bloodlust against corporate America, and it might play well in press conferences. But targeted tax hikes against industries one might not like is not an answer to the high price of gas. It might feel good in the short run, but it's not a long-term solution to America's energy problems."

Friday, May 6, 2011

Tax Rates=Incentives=Revenues

About ten years ago, give or take, then California Governor Gray Davis gave a press conference to discuss the Golden State's financial crisis (yes, even then). In that press conference he explained to reporters that it was not that state government spent too much, rather that the revenues weren't large enough. The translation of his remarks for the economically naive is: despite the fact that Californians are among the highest taxed citizens in the nation (exceeding even New Yorkers) they weren't paying enough for the state's services. If they were, we can extrapolate from Mr. Davis' statement, the revenues would be great enough to cover spending.

Thou hath not changed much California.

Except in one regard: businesses and wealthy individuals are fleeing the state. In 2007 according to the Pew Research Center, California experienced net migration of -681,000 individuals. In other words, California, in one year alone lost almost 700,000 taxpaying citizens to other, more tax-attractive states. In one year alone. From 2004-2007 the net loss of California citizens was 1,900,000. That's 1.9 million.

The California revenue problem has continued to deteriorate.

Enter Dr. Arthur Laffer (who also exited California during that period). He identified the importance of tax policy to economic growth illustrated best by the Laffer Curve. The Laffer Curve demonstrates that lower tax rates increase incentives to produce income and economic growth thereby resulting in increased tax revenues. There are two points on the Laffer Curve--picture a side-saddle bell curve--where tax revenues equal zero: at a zero percent tax rate and at an 100% tax rate. The former equation is obvious--absence of a tax rate will result in no revenues. At a 100% tax rate, zero tax revenues are also collected because all incentives to produce are removed when the government's take reaches 100%.

Economic growth and job creation needs to return to the forefront of our national dialogue. A realistic and economically sound tax policy should be debated. Economic class warfare benefits no one. Dr. Laffer believes, "the 2012 election will be a referendum on the economic policies of President Obama."

I certainly hope so.

Rising Public Sector Costs in California

An informative and shocking video from Americans for Prosperity. Cut and paste.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Exponentially Expanding Debt Crisis

The Washington budget demagoguery was put on hold when Congress recessed. And now is taking a back seat to the capture and death of Osama bin Laden. Our Navy Seals are the finest in the world--the best investment tax payers make in my view--but we need to hold our elected official's feet to the mounting debt fire. The blaze is raging dangerously out of control.

An unprecedented U.S. budget and debt crisis looms. We cannot afford to look away for even a moment while the Congressional foxes are guarding the national treasury henhouse. The Heritage Foundation reminds us:

"Today’s national debt—the public debt that government has accumulated to finance its out-of-control spending—is approximately $14.3 trillion. To put that into perspective, the government’s annual budget for 2011, which is in itself bloated, is roughly $3.7 trillion. And to put the future health of our economy in perspective, President Obama proposed in his 2012 Budget proposal that we add $9 trillion to that debt over the next ten years."

The most accessible explanation of our mounting debt is available at the following URL. Cut and paste and watch the short video. It is well worth the trouble.

Friday, March 18, 2011

"If they win a victory, they follow it up at once, and if they suffer a defeat, they scarcely fall back at all."
The Debate at Sparta
The History of the Peloponnesian War
Thucydides, 432 B.C.

The Corinthians were seeking help from their allies, the Spartans. The year was 432 B.C. Threatened by the Athenians, the Corinthians presented their case to the Spartan assembly warning of the relentless determination of their Athenian foes: "...if they suffer a defeat, they scarcely fall back at all."

In November of 2010, the Republicans won a a landslide victory in the U.S. Congress and in State Houses around the country handing an historic defeat to Democrats. Virtually every state, except for California rejected the destructive policies of the Pelosi-Reid Congress and endorsed a more socially and fiscally conservative agenda. In other words, the majority of Americans expressed through their vote a desire for a return to a Constitutionally based government. Months later the mood has not shifted. Polls continue to indicate a national lurch right or, perhaps, more accurately a return to the Foundational principles of our Republic.

Yet since the election, the Democrats, for the most part have not fallen back and respected the wishes of the American people, rather they have dug in. The President has defied two court orders to allow off-shore drilling and continues to prohibit the drilling of oil off the coast of the Gulf states, eliminating thousands of jobs for hardworking Americans and further increasing our dependence on foreign oil sources precisely when we should be ramping up production in the Gulf and, yes I'll say it, ANWR in the interest of national security and sound economic policy. Though gas prices have increased markedly in recent months, the President has yet to comply with the courts while unemployment and inflation threaten many American families and most especially those oil rig workers he forced into unemployment.

Our porous borders--particularly in Arizona--continue to place our citizens at risk and the President's response is not to enforce the law by beefing up border security but to sue the state of Arizona for passing a law requiring enforcement of an already existing federal illegal immigration law. Meanwhile murders continue in southern Arizona and a well worn copy of a book on jihad is found in the Arizona desert. Secure borders are a matter of national security, not merely a politically correct debate on immigration policy. If Mexican drug lords know our borders are open, does not Al Quaeda know the same?

ObamaCare is the most egregious act of defiance yet. Judge Roger Vinson, a federal judge in Pensacola, Florida in a 78 page ruling effectively declared ObamaCare unconstitutional. The Administration continued to implement the law for a month before the judge threatened an injunction unless they appealed his ruling in seven days. They have done so but continue to fund the law to the tune of billions of dollars. Each passing day, despite the voice of the American people, a repeal by the new Congress and two rulings by federal judges striking down the Constitutionality of the law, we move one step closer to losing our health care freedom.

Dug in. No retreat. They will not fall back. No budget in place for this fiscal year as Congress spends with no accountability. Debt accumulating like poker chips. Public unions demanding ever more from the tax payer coffers.

And we won the election. Some things, despite the passing of 2,400 years, never change.


Monday, March 7, 2011


"Make up your minds that happiness depends on being free, and freedom depends on being courageous. "

Pericles' Funeral Oration to the Athenians

Oh for courageous leaders. For a president who would stand up and say enough is enough, we will not spend beyond our means any longer: Read my Budget!

For a Congress that would enforce the difficult fiscal decisions. Cut through the fat, reduce funding of voluntary programs, spend responsibly. Reduce the unwieldy size of government.

For a judiciary that would enforce the Constitution rather than re-write it.

For leaders who are also adults. Who eat their broccoli before the creme brulee. Who are man and woman enough to stand up to short-term disapproval in order to make the right decisions for the nation, for the long term.

And for a citizenry like the Athenians Pericles describes: this is a peculiarity of ours: we do not say that a man who takes no interest in politics is a man who minds his own business; we say that he has no business here at all.

It is a time-proven tenet that ultimately people get what they deserve. Is it possible through our complacency we have indeed obtained the leaders we deserve? Let's hope that is not the case, that it is not too late to reverse the tide and through our interest in and engagement of the issues elect the kind of leaders America truly deserves. That our children and their children deserve.

It seems to me the least we can do. To have the courage to leave this country a little better than we found it.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Obama's Mettle

This semester I have the privilege of teaching a collegiate seminar of the Great Books. We just completed Thucydides' account of the "The Debate at Sparta and Declaration of War" from his History of the Peloponnesian War.

There is a reason the study of this work has long been considered the foundation of classical education. Our culture seems to have lost a thirst for the Great Books, unless of course we can digest them on screen in Hollywood extravaganzas like Troy which are often loosely, to say the least, based on the actual text.

During the Debate at Sparta, the Corinthians were presenting their grievances against Athens to their allies, the Spartans. ...the likeliest way of securing peace is this: only to use one's power in the cause of justice, but to make it perfectly plain that one is resolved not to tolerate aggression.

Sound advice we would do well to consider as our servicemen are gunned down at airports by Islamic extremists, our soldiers are gunned down on our own army base in Texas by an Islamic extremist and our citizens are held captive and murdered on their own vessel by Somali Pirates. Our response has been muted through each of these hostile, aggressive acts. Our response, frankly, has been absolutely shameful.

The Corinthians understood what Sparta didn't: that Athens was a determined and patient foe. ...they gradually encroach upon their neighbors. Now they are proceeding slowly because they think your insensitiveness to the situation enables them to go on their way unnoticed; you will find that they will develop their full strength once they realize that you do see what is happening and are still doing nothing to prevent it (emphasis mine).

Joe Biden told us during the election that our "young president" would be tested and we would wonder at his response. From the New York Post, October 21, 2008:

"Watch. We're going to have an international crisis, a generated crisis, to test the mettle of this guy.
And he's going to need help . . . to stand with him. Because it's not going to be apparent initially; it's not going to be apparent that we're right."

For once I agree with ole Joe. It is CLEARLY not apparent that "we're right." The Corinthians, however did understand the role of government in protecting her citizens: to use power in the cause of justice and to make it perfectly plain to our enemies that we will not tolerate aggression.

Read more:

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Obama's "Instrument of Unimagined Power"

I am unconsolably dismayed by the latest Rasmussen polling showing the President's approval rating improving in recent weeks. The talking heads attribute the positive trend to Obama's most recent promotion of more centrist ideals, and I suspect they are right. Whether the change in public sentiment sticks or not remains to be seen.

Bill Clinton certainly lurched successfully right after the mid-term elections during his first term. He heard the people and he adjusted his agenda. But Obama's shift feels more like FDR's approach after his re-election: a shift in rhetoric rather than behavior. A commitment to Keynesian ideology. A masterful manipulation of words and sentiment to change the subject. A shameless use of failed policies to justify the implementation of more-of- the-same.

Amity Shlaes' essential history of the Great Depression, The Forgotten Man is once again an invaluable source:
  • During FDR's second inaugural address he claimed economic victory where there was none: "Our progress out of the Depression is obvious." Yet unemployment was above 15% and subsequent data would show that joblessness had risen since the election. FDR's claims were baseless (298). We have heard nothing less from President Obama. The economy is on the mend. We are beyond the worst of it. Yet unemployment continues to rise. Housing languishes and government debts grows exponentially.
  • FDR continued to attack the wealthy and the economics of a free market: "We have always known that heedless self-interest was bad morals; we know now that it is bad economics." (298) Again, we hear the same disdainful vitriol targeted at the private sector and the "rich" by the Obama Administration. The tax payers, the job creators, the philanthropists. Evil. Evil. Evil.
  • FDR was the master of double-speak. After claiming the country was moving out of the Depression, Roosevelt said this: "I see one third of a nation ill-housed, ill-clad, ill-nourished." This gave him, he believed, the moral authority to establish a "new order of things." (298) We see the same from every corner of the Obama Administration. The president, after passing an unprecedented number of regulations in the first two years of his presidency is now suddenly going to attack unnecessary regulations.
  • Last week he wrote in a Wall Street Journal editorial: "For instance, the FDA has long considered saccharin, the artificial sweetener, safe for people to consume. Yet for years, the EPA made companies treat saccharin like other dangerous chemicals. Well, if it goes in your coffee, it is not hazardous waste. (emphasis mine) The EPA wisely eliminated this rule last month."
That ought to do it. Let's lighten up on saccharin. Never mind that the EPA is now regulating CO2. If we exhale it, it is not hazardous waste. But I digress.

  • FDR believed in the moral superiority of government over individual liberty: "We are beginning to wipe out the line that divides the practical from the ideal; and in so doing we are fashioning an instrument of unimagined power for the establishment of a morally better world." (299)

"An instrument of unimagined power." Can you say Obamacare?